The ride of their lives at Gundaroo school

The ride of their lives at Gundaroo school

Gundaroo Public School's 150th anniversary

We can all recall getting into strife at school. In the little outpost bush schools the nature of naughtiness knew no bounds.

When Gundaroo Public School celebrates its 150th anniversary next year, the parade of scallywag children will be over-shadowed by naughty teachers - including today's principal Sue Kominek.

Gundaroo's old school building is now used as a library.

Gundaroo's old school building is now used as a library.Credit:Contributed

Arriving as a teacher at Gundaroo in the early 1980s, Mrs Kominek found many of the children still rode their ponies to and from school.

So she did too. Sort of ...

Gundaroo Public School, 1916.

Gundaroo Public School, 1916.Credit:Contributed

"When I was teacher-in-charge, I lived in what is now the administration building, the principal's residence. I had a horse next door in a little paddock. I used to ride it after school.

"One day, about six o'clock in the evening, the school inspector decided to drop in and I had one foot in the stirrup ready to take off. That wasn't fair at that time. So that was the end of that ride."

On most days she unsaddled the smaller pupils' mounts.

"One mum used to ride down with her daughters and then she'd take the string of ponies home with her, then she'd bring the string of ponies back with her in the afternoon."

Horses remained part of school life into the early 1990s.

"We probably had six to eight kids who would ride their ponies to school," Mrs Kominek said.

Most left their horses in a church paddock next door.

Now, back to those naughty teachers.

When James F. Lowe arrived in the 1890s the buildings were falling to bits, but he didn't care. He was more interested in looking for gold at Bywong and around Gundaroo.

He would put the local senior constable's son in charge of the other kids and duck out to fossick.

One day in 1895, he returned to find the district school inspector D. J. Cooper conducting the lessons.

Mrs Kominek said the inspector's report did not state Lowe's misdemeanours ... "only that he lacked manageability and natural aptitude, noting at the same time the talking and indiscipline of the pupils much addicted to copying and whispering". Little brats.

There were big brats too, as a group of parents discovered in the early 1970s, says Cecil Burgess, a former pupil and now a grazier and Yass Valley councillor.

Years after he had left the school his father and Parents and Citizens president Keith Burgess was becoming concerned at talk of school closures. The farming district was dwindling along with numbers at the school, falling below the required seven to keep it open.

People within the Education Department were having secret meetings.

"That's when my father got cranky and found out what was going on," Mr Burgess said.

A group of parents drove up to 16 kilometres twice a day to collect and return two children from an outlying property who had been studying by correspondence. When they became regulars, the school continued.

Mr Burgess was nine when he first arrived at the public school, in 1959. He did his high schooling there too, on the veranda - even in winter. "We were tough in those days, I suppose," he said.

Today four teachers, 82 students, an administration manager and three part-timers who teach computer skills, French and library, make up the school community, along with parents.

Mrs Kominek has seen the recent highlights and unexpected events like the sad death of a student from cancer and the subsequent funeral at school.

The late Mike Hayes, well known as the Prickle Farmer for his newspaper columns and books, sent the Hayes children to the school, which brought hilarity and made Mrs Kominek a celebrity.

"One of the kids in first grade brought two chooks in for show and tell and they escaped and they pooed all over the computers and took off all around the classroom," she said.

The 150th celebrations on Saturday, March 21 next year will unite the wider Gundaroo community and students past and present.

Go to to get regular updates or contribute old photos of staff and students.

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